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Picnicking, Hiking & Camping Food Safety Tips
Preventing foodborne illness

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How safe is your picnic?

Picnics in the park . . .
Hiking in the woods . . .
Campsite barbecues . . .

Everyone loves eating outdoors . . . but it can be a food safety challenge because you don't have a proper kitchen!

Control the temperature!

When we're outdoors, we can't control the weather - but we CAN control the temperature of our food and prevent foodborne illness! The rules are simple. Hot food must be kept hot at or above 60°C (140°F), and cold food must be kept cold at or below 4°C (40°F). There's no middle ground.

Keep food out of the temperature danger zone of 4°C to 60°C (40°F to 140°F). Bacteria can grow in this temperature range. After only two hours, your food can become dangerous. When in doubt - throw it out! Play it "food safe" this summer - and all year long!

Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of your food. See table.

Foodsafe tip: When transporting food to picnic sites, it can be difficult to keep food hot, so keep it cold instead, then heat it up when you get to your destination!

Five easy "cooler safety" tips

  1. Take perishable food in a cooler that keeps food cold at or below 4°C (40°F). Food safety experts recommend using freezer ice packs because they drip less. Loose ice or cubes can melt, then drip and possibly transfer contaminants from one food to another. If you use loose ice, store everything in sealed containers to prevent cross-contamination!
  2. Refrigerate or freeze food, if possible, the day before you pack it. This way it's already cold when you put it in the cooler.
  3. Place your cooler in the coolest part of your vehicle when you're travelling. On hot days, use the car's air conditioning, if you can, to keep food cool.
  4. Keep the cooler out of the sun and keep the lid closed as often as you can. You may want to use two coolers - one for drinks (since it may be opened more often) and another for food.
  5. Separate raw food from cooked food. Place raw meat and poultry in sealed containers and pack them at the bottom of the cooler to keep their juices from dripping onto other food. Or better yet, pack raw meat in a separate cooler.


  1. Clean utensils, plates and trays after each use. Don't forget to wash and sanitize inside the cooler before and after each use.
  2. Follow the same handwashing rules outdoors as you do at home. Bring some soap and wash your hands with clean, safe water for at least 20 seconds.

    Handwashing checklist
    Always wash after you:

    • touch raw meat, poultry or seafood
    • touch raw fruits and vegetables
    • use the washroom
    • change a diaper
    • touch an animal
    • touch any dirty surface
Foodsafe tip: Save yourself some time and some effort by washing fruits and vegetables before you leave home.

SEPARATE for safety!

  • To prevent raw meat, poultry or seafood from contaminating other food while you're preparing them, pack two sets of utensils and two cutting boards. Use one set for raw food and the other for ready-to-eat or cooked food. Bring a bag to store the used items to prevent them from cross-contaminating the clean items.

COOK thoroughly!

  • By cooking your food to a safe internal temperature, you can destroy any harmful bacteria that might be present. Use a food thermometer to check the inside temperature of the food to find out if it's cooked to a high enough temperature to be safe to eat. Proper cooking helps prevent foodborne illness. Using a food thermometer also helps you prevent overcooking.
  • Precook and chill meat at home when possible, and reheat on site to 74° C (165° F). This will help save time, prevent flaring and undercooking.

Internal Cooking Temperatures

You can’t tell by looking. Use a digital food thermometer to be sure!

Food Temperature
Beef, veal and lamb (pieces and whole cuts)  - medium-rare 63°C (145°F)
Beef, veal and lamb (pieces and whole cuts)  - medium 71°C (160°F)
Beef, veal and lamb (pieces and whole cuts)  - well done 77°C (170°F
Pork (pieces and whole cuts) 71°C (160°F)
Poultry (e.g. chicken, turkey, duck)  - pieces 74°C (165°F)
Poultry - whole 85°C (185°F)
Ground meat and meat mixtures (e.g. burgers, sausages, meatballs, meatloaf, casseroles)  - beef, veal, lamb and pork 71°C (160°F)
Ground meat and meat mixtures - poultry 74°C (165°F)
Egg dishes 74°C (165°F)
Others (hot dogs, stuffing and leftovers) 74°C (165°F)

Take care with drinking water!

Even when lakes and rivers look clean, the water may be dangerous to drink. Drink bottled water or tap water from a clean, safe source. (Remember to clean your water bottles and containers after each use!)

Foodsafe tip: Use only safe drinking water for washing food, washing dishes and brushing teeth.

If required, you can purify water by boiling for one minute. If boiling is not possible, use water purification tablets and/or water filters. Follow package directions.

How to purify water by boiling
  • Let suspended particles settle or strain the water through coffee filters.
  • Bring the water to a rolling boil and continue to boil for at least one minute.

Safeguarding Canada's Food Supply

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is the Government of Canada's science-based regulator for animal health, plant protection and, in partnership with Health Canada, food safety.

For more information on food safety or to order free copies of this brochure, visit the CFIA website at or call 1-800-442-2342/TTY 1-800-465-7735 (8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday to Friday). You can also find food safety information on the Health Canada and Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education websites respectively at and

Cat. no.: A104-10/2005E
ISBN: 0-662-41095-5